Enduring exchange

From left to right: Kelly Kolton, Chris Kaergard, Bart Kwasniewski, Meyas Al-Mansour, Saša Kisovec, Nina Andrijaševic, Katja Vidmar, Tanja Divac, Klavdija Kopina

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September 21, 2010

Every student who takes advantage of Bradley’s wide array of study abroad opportunities is assured a life-changing adventure. And for some, the trip becomes much more than a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Three journalism alumni who studied in Slovenia as part of the Department of Communication’s long-standing exchange with the University of Ljubljana have established enduring relationships with the Central European country, even making return trips. This week they seized another opportunity to expand their Slovenian network by welcoming a seventh group of University of Ljubljana students to Bradley for a three-day visit.

Chris Kaergard ’04 was among the first group of Bradley students to travel to Slovenia through what has become an annual exchange. Kaergard was so taken with the country that he joined the next round of Bradley students exploring Slovenia the following year, and then went back two more times on his own.

Kelly Kolton ’05 was on the 2004 trip to Slovenia, an experience that forever changed the way she approaches her career in communications and marketing for the Peoria Park District.

“In my travels to Slovenia, I met so many people who spoke English as a second language and who interpreted visual symbols and cues differently than an American would,” said Kolton. “Keeping in mind that people interpret communication with their own lens of the world helps me formulate clearer messages in various media for various audiences.”

Kolton went back to Slovenia this year to reunite with friends and meet the Bradley-bound Slovenian students ahead of their journey to the United States. When the six students arrived in Chicago, Bart Kwasnieski ’09, another alum of the exchange program, was there to greet them.

As executive officers of Bradley’s Communication Alumni Network, Kaergard and Kolton use their Slovenia stories to inspire current students to consider the long-range benefits of making international connections.

“It’s not just about networking with someone to get a job here, it’s networking to be able to do your job better,” said Kaergard, now the deputy opinions editor at the Peoria Journal Star. “In a global media environment, you may need a European journalist friend at some point, either for a job or for a perspective on something.”

During their visit to Bradley, the Slovenian students have opportunities to attend communication classes, interact with students pursuing a wide range of disciplines, and meet media professionals in Peoria.

“It’s a very interesting experience because there are so many similarities between Slovenia and the United States, but there are major differences in media,” said Meyas Al-Mansour, a journalism student and reporter for Slovenia’s largest newspaper.

Dr. Jeffrey Huberman, dean of the Slane College of Fine Arts and Communications, said supporting the exchange program through the years, and thereby fostering a new generation of professional journalists, is one of his most important tasks.

“It is important now more than ever for professional journalists to go the distance to find and report the truth and to distinguish themselves from those who pretend to be journalists,” said Huberman. “These outstanding journalism students from Slovenia have been coming to Bradley University in the heart of our country to do just that. I am so pleased to welcome them to Bradley and applaud their effort to truly go the distance, to see the truth with their own eyes, and report it back to their country and the world.”